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40% of household income in Turkey was expended on food and drink, compared to 20% in Spain and 10% in the UK.

This is a sentence I wrote, and Grammarly corrected expended to spent. According to what I see in the dictionary, there's no significant difference between the two words, or at least in this example, so I wonder why Grammarly suggested it.

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  • Spend is normally used with money, expend more commonly with energy or resources. Generally, Grammarly will tell you to use a simple word rather than a more complex word because it's bad style to use unnecessarily complex language.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 28 at 11:26
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    expend is not used for money spent on things. What StuartF says is accurate. No one would say some percentage of income was expended on. It is a misuse of the the term.
    – Lambie
    Mar 28 at 21:46
  • But according to the OALD and Cambridge Dictionary, expend means "to use or spend a lot of time, money, energy, etc."
    – Ken Adams
    Mar 29 at 2:13

3 Answers 3

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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, expend is a formal word. That means it's fine to use it in formal writing (and I would say that the sentence you quoted is formal writing), but you wouldn't use it in speech.

In terms of meaning, I would be more inclined to use expend to talk about time/energy/money that I felt was being wasted.

Why does Grammarly dislike expend? No idea: maybe they disapprove of formal words.

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  • Others say that it's only used to connote depletion, not allocation. Do you agree?
    – Ken Adams
    Mar 29 at 2:20
  • @KenAdams Both spend and expend are about depletion. You have money in your pocket, you spend some, the money in your pocket is depleted. Both can also be about allocation. This Ngram search shows that "Expenditure budget" is much more widely used than "Spending budget", and a budget is entirely about allocation, not depletion. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 30 at 4:01
  • "Expenditure budget" is widely used, so "expending one's budget" and "expending one's money" are totally fine. Am I understanding it correctly?
    – Ken Adams
    Mar 30 at 4:59
  • @KenAdams in formal, written English, yes. It's not something that you would ever say.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 30 at 6:12
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I'd say that the ex prefix can draw attention to outflow and the fact that what is being spent is not limitless.

Not that the word is being used in that way in the Turkey example. Like Grammarly, I also find the usage there a bit odd, since "expend" connotes depletion not allocation. We wouldn't say "The company expended $50 million on R&D".

Take care to pace yourself. It's a long race, and you don't want to expend all your energy early on.

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  • Why are definitions in dictionaries so misleading? According to a lot of different dictionaries, expend means "to use or spend a lot of time, money, energy, etc.". They don't say anything about how it's really used. I feel a bit frustrated as an English learner to receive conflicting information all the time :<.
    – Ken Adams
    Mar 29 at 2:18
  • Lexiocgraphers will ususally try to put the "bullseye" usage (i.e. the most central one) first and give other uses which don't quite hit the bullseye as secondary or tertiary meanings. Merriam-Webster, for example, offers "to pay out" as the first definition and "to make use of for a specific purpose" as a second definition (but their example sentence is a bad example of this meaning, which I don't think is warranted in the first place); then at the bottom of their entry they point to the phrasal verb use up, which IMO is the bullseye usage, as it focuses on the notion of depletion.
    – TimR
    Mar 29 at 12:51
  • The definition I put above is from the Cambridge Dictionary and the OALD, two of the biggest online dictionaried in my opinion. What about them?
    – Ken Adams
    Mar 30 at 0:50
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    Learners dictionaries like OALD are poor resources when it comes to nuance. And I find the entry in Cambridge to be of low quality. Perhaps there's a transatlantic difference here (though I don't think so). Collins dictionary gives the 'use up" meaning as secondary under the "American English" rubric. collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/expend
    – TimR
    Mar 30 at 10:34
  • Hard to demonstrate this with ngram, but here's an attempt: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – TimR
    Mar 30 at 10:44
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"Expend" is used in budgetary context, "spend" is consume

More specifically, you'd use "expend" when the you wanna draw attention to the resource. "Spend" is drawing attention to the act of consuming the resource. It overlaps a LOT with "spend" but the idiomatic use is:

It's "government expenditure" when talking about how much the government is expected to use, it's "government spending" when talking about the actual usage of the money.

The cost is "expenses", and when you run out, you're "spent" because it's drawing attention to your state rather than the resource itself, the resource itself being "expended"

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